Jacqui Naylor smiles during a recent performance. (Axel Fuhrmann-Kombrust)

Jacqui Naylor smiles during a recent performance. (Axel Fuhrmann-Kombrust)

‘Music connects us all’: Jazz-pop artist asks for requests before concert

By Diane Urbani de la Paz

For Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — When she’s asked what drives her to keep traveling, singing and traveling some more, Jacqui Naylor opens right up.

“I do what I do, really, to connect with people,” said the vocalist, who will bring her brand of jazz-infused pop to Port Angeles on Wednesday.

“In particular this year, with everything that’s going on in the country and in the world,” she added, “music is a thing that connects us all.”

Naylor, who’s about to release an album titled “Q &A,” is also bringing her pianist-guitarist-husband, Art Khu, upstairs to Studio Bob, 118½ E. Front St., for a 7 p.m. concert.

Tickets are $20 via http://newupstage.com and at Harbor Art, 110 E. Railroad Ave. Any remaining will be sold at the door.

This artist stirs together a little bit of everything: pop covers such as “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Losing My Religion,” American Songbook standards from “Summertime” to “Skylark” and her original tunes, such as “Celebrate Early and Often.”

Naylor is a border-crosser, known for what she calls “acoustic smashing.” This means she smashes together well-loved pop numbers with her jazzy approach, all over Khu’s understated playing.

Together, they take a kind of saunter through the melody. Naylor even has a record titled “Smashed for the Holidays,” a platter full of carols sung as only she does.

A San Franciscan, Naylor has been making albums for nearly two decades, ranging from “Live at the Plush Room” in 2001 and “Shelter” two years later to 2008’s “You Don’t Know Jacq” and 2012’s “Lucky Girl.”

Alongside her originals, covers go from Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” to Mercer and Mancini’s “Moon River.”

Speaking to a reporter while en route to the airport in Newark, N.J., for a flight to Portugal, she invited Port Angeles concertgoers to make song requests. Yes, really: Visit jacquinaylor.com, look at the songs on her albums, choose your request and she’ll even dedicate it to you at Studio Bob.

“Jazz is really a conversation,” she said, adding that Khu calls her “Q” for that letter in her first name. Since he’s called Art, the “Q &A” title works out neatly.

Naylor and Khu worked together for five years, recording and performing, before he asked her out.

“I said no,” she recalled, because she was worried about what might happen if a romance got going but didn’t work out.

Khu, Naylor said, is a multi-instrumentalist, a musician who can do just about anything, “a rare find,” she said.

“I didn’t want to mess it up,” so the date was a no-go. But only for a while.

“I came to my senses,” she said. The couple have been married some 10 years now. They’ve recorded nine albums together.

Naylor offers a twofold piece of advice to young musicians.

“Make sure it’s what you really want to do,” she begins.

“And really study. Learn from everyone around you … respect those you work with and those you work for.

“Listen. Listen a lot. Figure out what it is that you like, and at the same time, make sure you’re striving to find yourself in that.

“We need each artist to be themselves completely.”

Mark Cole, the concert promoter bringing Naylor to town, calls her “a cool jazz artist,” one who speaks to the listener’s head and heart.

“There’s an emotional connection that happens,” he said, and it draws the whole person in.

Naylor’s show will be the ninth concert Cole has presented at Studio Bob in 2016. After moving from Port Townsend to Port Angeles last year, he’s brought internationally known blues artists including Coco Montoya, Curtis Salgado and Janiva Magness here in an effort to raise the city’s profile on the Pacific Northwest music map.

Audience sizes have varied, though, and Cole admitted that only some shows turned a profit.

“I hope [Naylor] will go well,” he said, adding that other artists want to play in Port Angeles.

“Making it work is challenging. … We need more support for what we do,” as in support from ticket buyers, artists and agents.

Naylor, for her part, has her eyes on an intangible reward.

“I want people to leave refreshed,” she said, “and hopefully feeling joyful.”


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Angeles.

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